Saturday, July 29, 2006

"J" Pod

My flight week is coming to an end and all things considered it wasn't too bad. Forest fires on Monday, again on Tuesday. Tuesday's show also brought a "breaking" apartment complex fire that was very visual.
But it was first thing Friday morning that I will likey remember most. As I was just getting to the hanger, Gregg on the desk calls. He has details of an assignment that we can bang off right away. He gives me GPS coorinates which I scribble down on my hand as I curse myself under my breath as I am in need of a freah note pad in the truck.

There is a lot of hubbub at the hanger. The evening before a Bell 404 medivac from Denver Colorado had landed and were using our hanger for their time here in Vancouver. That machine and her crew would be part of a film shoot on Saturday or at least that was the plan. Unfortunatally it was discovered that this machine had developed a machinical issue and would need a part transported to them.

A shot of the visiting 407 Medivac Helicopter from Denver

As I arrived in the hanger and inform Peter our pilot of the day as to what we are up to, the 407 crew is inspecting their machine and making plans for a delay in the shooting schedual.
Jana one of the Flight Nurses from the 407 askes if we would mind her taking some pictures taking off on our hot news story. What is happining she askes. Peter reveals that we are headed to see if we can get some pictures of an Orca Pod that is feeding near Sand Heads.
I have never seen whales in a pod from the helicopter before. I had taken video of Luna the lone Orca of Gold River a few seasons ago from our first Helicopter. During our many crossings of the Straight of Georgia I have always looked but have never seen a Pod.

As we powered up we invited Jana and her collegue Linda to join us. It would be a short flight and both we excieted about the possibility of seeing Killer Whales. Not many whales get to Denver, well maybe on a ski vacation,,,,,

A frame grab from Chopper 9 as we approach "J" pod

It was not long before we had our target in sight. There was a floatilla of Whale Watching boats already surrounding the pod as they feasted on a run of salmon. It was just a mile or so off the "Coal Pile" at Delta Port and within sight of the ferry terminal. It turnes out to be "J" Pod a resident pod of Orcas. They travel all over the Pacific Northwest. It is quite a sight. I guess we had quite an audience back at Vancouver control watching the feed come into the station. Nature at it's best. I guess "I" Pod was busy down loading music and was not seen in the area.

Another frame grab off Sand Heads with 2 orcas feeding just a few feet from a Whale Watching tour boat

We spent about 40 minutes or so getting what we needed before we headed back to YVR. Our guests from Colorado excieted from an experience and ready to tell the story to freinds and family back in Colorado of how they went Ocra Whale watching, from a Helicopter, "up there in Canada"

A good shot of an adult orca of "J" Pod.

We ended up running the tape for both our 5 and 6 shows. It wasn't a bad way to end a very good flight week.

A shot of Jana and I as we return from Sand Heads

Linda in the front seat after we arrive back from our Whale Watching adventure

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Best Laid Plans

"Vancouver Base, Chopper 9,,,,,,"
"Go ahead Chopper 9." The radio crackled back to me.
"Good morning, Just powering up. Like to hit Seymour headed to Galiano Island, please have feed and play record my output."
"Roger that, Seymour, NavTrac engaged and we are recording."
And with that my Vacation was over. Back into the sky and an interface fire to boot. Could it get any better? Damn I was pumped.

Actually my vacation ended 3 hours earlier when my cell rang at 06:40. It was Dave A, our Ops Super.
"Murman, need you to prepare to get into the sky over Galiano, can you get a hold of your pilot and make flight preps."

I called the flight office as I knew that the system would patch me to whoever was the pilot on call, it turned out to be Ronn.
"Ronn, they want us to get in the air over Galiano, they will want us to land and unless I call back, lets shoot for a 09:00 departure."

The mind movie back on the desk was the following: A camera on the ground had already been dispatched to the Island. He would be on a ferry shortly. He will shoot ground materials gather clips until you fly over with an as yet to be named reporter. But where's Kink? Oh he's covering the early anchor cut ins and won't be available until after 9. OK.
All good right?

Phone rings, head down town an pick up your gear first and now it looks like that reporter to be named later will be Kink. Please coordinate with him as to pick up. When I arrive at the office at 7:40 I take the opportunity to speak to the New Assignment Editor. It's his very first day in the chair. He's very stoked about this story. I let him know about the NOTAM and that landing at this point could be an issue. This presents two problems actually. How would Kink meet up with our ground camera and how would said ground camera get his material off the island.

(Kink saddling up for what would be a short flight to the harbour)

Our Sat truck is on other operations in the interior of the Province.
Quickly the logistics people hatch an alternative plan. This one would involve landing on a nearby island and taking a water taxi or hiring a boat over to Galiano. It sounded good, it could work.
With that, I headed to the airport to brief our pilot on the revised plan. Kink would be joining us later.
Ronn had been in touch with Coastal Fire Air services. All according to our protocols worked out with Provincial Forestry. All good.
In the past we have been able to notify the site commander and inturn the Fire Air Boss to get permission to enter the restricted area. Ultimately we would be granted a place in what is called the "stack". There really wasn't much of a stack on this occasion, but sometime the "stack" would be several thousand feet high depending on how many fixed wing water bombers were working the fire. The object of the "stack" is to keep an orderly attack of the fire with a number of aircraft entering the "stack" at lets say 2000 ft and corkscrewing in a counter clockwise manner down to make their "bombing" run on the fire line. All of this aerial ballet is controlled by a smaller aircraft called the "Bird Dog". In the past air bosses and "Bird Dogs" have allowed us into the very top of the "stack", plus 200 ft or so. This would allow attack aircraft to enter below us and continue their missions un hampered by our machine. It would allow us to get the shots we need and provide some views that are not seen from the ground. If more aircraft joined, then "Bird Dog" would have us climb to a higher altitude. Of course the "Bird Dogs" always insist that we get some good shot of them, not just those bomber guys.

Phone rings again. Plans have changed, because the solutions that the Logistics team have come up with are all within the NOTAM area. We are now on Plan C or D as we rotor up. I am kind losing count.

I listen in on the COM line as Ronn calls the tower. Kink is in his usual front seat punching in GPS coordinates.
"Vancouver Tower, Good Morning, this is Tango Hotel Uniform with Information Charlie,,,"
Just as Ronn relays our plans to the tower, Kink interrupts him with yet another change. The desk has just come up with another plan of attack. This would involve flying to the Harbour Helipad and dropping Kink off to catch a seaplane with a third camera. It looks like camera guy # one (Wade) may not be able to board the ferry as they are only going to load fire equipment.
Ronn lets the Tower know of our sudden change and we are given the Harbour departure route out of YVR.
When we land and drop off Kink. We decide to take on a full fuel load so Ronn and I can have a maximum time over the fire. We no sooner fill the machine and yet another curve ball. This time it's with the sea plane. They cannot get into the seaplane area because of the NOTAM over the fire area.
"OK" Kink says, "I guess I'm coming with you guys again."
"We just took on full fuel, we'll be too heavy"

( At the Harbour, taking on full fuel. The first of many landings at the Harbour )

So Ronn and I fly off leaving poor Kink on the ground. We head to the fire. As soon as we lift off we can see it in the distance. Galiano Island is just across the Georgia Straight. The weather is clear and hot. The wind is picking up. As we approach I spot the Martin Mars Bomber making a run. I am rolling and recording as they are back at Vancouver Base.
( A frame grab of the Martin Mars as seen from several miles away as we cross the Straight)

We are unable to get the Air Boss so we climb above the NOTAM ceiling. In this particular case it was 3000 ft and Vancouver Terminal Control granted us 3500 ft.
I was able to get some good shots of the Mars doing it's thing. The Martin Mars Waterbomber is the largest water bomber on the planet. It was originally built during the second world war as an attack bomber for the pacific. The war ended before the Mars could be used in combat and of the 5 or 6 that were build, The BC government bought 3 and converted them into water bombers. They are magnificent to see in action.

( The Martin Mars Water Bomber banking into an attack run )

I never get tired of watching them do a run over the fire lines. I have seen them in action several times over the years and on 4 occasions I have shot them from Chopper 9.

We were over the fire for about 40 minutes or so. Then all of a sudden the radio crackled. "Chopper 9, control"
"Go ahead, control" I answered.
"Please return to the Harbour to pick up Kink, we have an LZ for you on the Island, Kink will brief you when you get to him."

Off we go now to land yet again at Vancouver Harbour. Ronn wants to top off the fuel when we land. When we arrive there is not one body, Kink, but two to pick up. I quickly run down the gangway to the pad to tell Ronn not to take on fuel as we now have an extra body to take with us.
"Are we able to take Kate?" I ask.
"But we won't be able to take on fuel and it will only give us about 30 minutes over the fire"

( Kate joins us seen here in a familar position, "working the phone")

Kink briefs Ronn on the new Plan, I'll call this PLAN 9 (from outerspace). We are all to head over to the Island, land at a resort on the North tip of the island. It is outside of the NOTAM and we have the permission of the landowner to land. All good.

We get there and now the wind has kicked up big time as we look for the LZ and when we find it the conditions have made it quite impossible to attempt a landing with such a heavy machine in such heat. You see the turbine engines have to work even harder to provide lift in the hot weather. With us already being near max gross and Ronn piloting our approach we are at max power, there was no need to become the second big story of the day involving the Transportation Safety Board.

( a frame grab of our intended landing site, conditions are not what we had hoped for)

Back at CTV Control they don't seem to quite understand the physics of flight and sometimes think we have a Magic Carpet with a Time Travel Option. Once the situation is explained to them we headed back to YVR. Some fun eh?

We still had a problem. Wade was on the Island with tape that he had been gathering. We needed to get that tape. With two less bodies on board, Ronn my intrepid pilot and I headed off to meet up with Wade on the Island at a 2nd LZ. This LZ had been used in the past and was OK for landing. But when we got there it was a different story. There was a pile of siding stacked pretty much in the middle of the area. Our down wash would make it a mess if we went in and landed. Not to mention potential damage to our machine. Just as we aborted our approach, up pulls Wade in his truck. We fly off now to the LZ we had attempted earlier with the four of us on board. The winds were kinda dodgy, but we got ourselves on the ground and I called Wade to let him know where we were.

(Tail Cam shot as we are about to touch down)

( Chopper 9 on the ground at a place called the "Stone Works' on Galiano Island )

He would take about 20 minutes to find us. In the meantime we find out that we were not at the resort that we thought, yet the land owner was delighted to see us. He and his grand children watched with excitement as we landed in the large grassy field behind their log home.
As I waited for Wade, I took the kids down to the Machine for a tour. The boys were all about 10 or 11 and I made sure each one of them got a good look up close of the helicopter. Ronn was talking to the Grandfather and we made sure that we handed out some swag to thank them for their hospitality. We were invited back to use the back field "Anytime you need it".
Wade arrived with the tape and we were off. I fed his tape on the trip back to YVR and made arrangements to pick Kink back up at the Harbour for 5 PM.

( Some of the fine work as shot by our Ground Camera, Wade as I am feeding back to Vancouver )

God I was exhausted and it was just after 4. We still had to fly and pick up Kink for the show and return to the Fire Line for the 6, would this day end?
The 6 went off with out a hitch and we returned home.
5.2 flight hours. Not bad for the first day back from vacation, I think I need another,,,

( a shot of the boys while waitng for Wade. They each enjoyed sitting in the pilot's seat)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Black Wednesday

I have been on vacation and have been less than faithful to the blog and for that I apologize. But in my absence, much has happened in our small world of media.

My friend and colleague Dave K were hoping to get some sailing in last week when weather and the winds of change at on of our local competitors CITY TV stopped us in our tracks. Last Wednesday morning our colleagues at CKVU were called from what ever their assignments were and directed to a meeting where they were told that they were no longer employed. Talk about a kick in the nuts.
The long and the short of it, CHUM has not been the same company for some time. I had worked for ATV years ago when it was owned by the CHUM group. It had been the best company to work for. Good benefits, decent pay, I hated to leave, but in hind sight it was the best thing I could have done at the time.

Now as part of a big restructure, hundreds of people have lost their jobs across Canada. They include both A Channels and CITY operations across the country. I know some of these people. They are very talented and gifted. It doesn't seem right.

The media business is always changing. That's what makes it exciting, challenging and attractive. Unfortunately sometimes the changing manifests itself in the way it did on Wednesday.

It makes you think, how safe are you? Do you have a plan? Unfortunately most of us don't. Hell mine seems to involve a particular 6 numbers twice a week. You see I need all 6 on the same day. Then I'll not need to worry about how the media world changes at least for me.

Well, I have got to go back and get some painting done, not much of a vacation, but it is away from the daily crush. I'll be back on Monday, back in the air.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

For Immediate Release

For Immediate Release

-Wednesday July 5, 2006
YVR-An inconsolable Murman issued the following for immediate release at the end of the second semi final of the World Kick Ball Cup.

"FUCK!!!!" was heard around Sea Island, home of the Vancouver International Airport this afternoon. This after a complete collapse of his pool picks in the semi final round. Team Murman was looking good going into the final four with 3 teams left. Vegas odds makers had him pegged as the 2:1 favorite going into the semi finals.
"I had been looking forward to a German/French final as I suspect France would just give up!"

But yesterday Team Blitzkrieg couldn't get the job done against Italy.
"One freakin' shot on goal, what the hell was that!" Murman added. "Master Race, my ass!"

This afternoon's match up saw Team Murman still in the hunt. But the synchronized diving team of Portugal found themselves flopping around the penalty area waiting for the ref to give them a free bee. Murman still leads by one point going into the final, but had chose Germany to win it all. So as the points nazi would say "No points for you!"
"I was a hell of a good run, and beating Martinez by over 40 points was well worth the 10 bucks. Thank God that Hockey season is only 10 weeks away."

World Wide Murman Press Release